How Long Should Kids Be in Rear-Facing Car Seats?

UPDATE: As of June 14, 2019, Governor Janet Mills signed new child safety seat rules into law, An Act To Update Laws Governing Child Safety (LD 1269). The new rules define the required time a child needs to remain in a rear-facing seat and changes the weight requirement for forward-facing seats used with a harness. This blog post has been updated to reflect those changes. 

When it comes to child passenger safety, car seats for infants, babies, and children is a priority for all parents. Fussing with your baby and buckling them in their rear-facing car seat can be frustrating, particularly on those icy cold, Maine winter mornings. Infants and babies especially do not like to lose sight of their mothers. Many often cry when placed in the back seat facing away from them. Wanting to turn your child around to comfort and calm them is natural. Wondering how long your child should be in a rear-facing seat is normal. However, the fact is, rear-facing car seats are not only a must when it comes to your baby, but it is also the law.

NHTSA and AAP Car Seat Guidelines

Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend keeping children in rear-facing car seats up to 2 years of age or the maximum weight the seat will go rear-facing. It is a matter of your baby’s safety and the numbers support it. Research found that children 2 years and younger are approximately 75 percent less likely to die or sustain serious injury in a rear-facing car seat than a forward-facing one. Rear-facing car seats spread the force of an impact more evenly across a child’s body while in the back car seat. The rear-facing seats also act to protect a child’s head in the event of a crash, limiting the chances of a neck injury.

What are Maine’s Laws Regarding Child Passenger Safety?

The State of Maine has a Child Passenger Safety (CPS) law that follows strict height and weight requirements. The CPS and Maine’s universal seat belt law are mandatory regulations designed to keep everyone safe in any vehicle while out on the roadways. Maine law for child safety restraint is defined as a “child safety seat.” A child safety seat is one that meets the standards described in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Federally approved child restraint system means a child safety restraint that is intended to be used as crash protection in vehicles which meets the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.

Maine law states that children less than 55 lbs. must ride properly secured in a child safety seat. Like Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York, Maine now requires children to remain in a rear-facing safety seat until the age of two. For children older than two they now must be secured in a forward-facing seat with a harness until they weigh 55 lbs. Those who violate the new rules could face up to $250 in fines.

Infant seats must always face backward, with the baby riding in a semi-reclining position facing the rear of the car. Convertible seats face backward in a semi-reclining position for children. By law, caregivers must follow the car seat manufacturer’s weight and height requirements before turning a child forward facing. If you would like a car seat inspection, have a safety technician show you how to install a car seat properly, or just learn more about car seat safety, Maine offers these services for free! Check for your location here!

Car Seat Safety for Older Kids, Too!

With regard to older children, those between 40 and 79 lbs., and less than 8 years old, must ride secured in an approved child restraint system. Children taller than 4 feet – 9 inches, that no longer use a child restraint system, must wear a seat belt. Finally, if possible, children under 12 years old that weigh less than 100 lbs. must be secured in the rear seat of the vehicle.

Buckle Up for Safety!

Parents, grandparents, babysitters, and caretakers are the first line of defense when it comes to child passenger safety. Lead by example, respect the law and buckle up. For parents with newborns and infants, as tempting as it is to turn a fussy baby around to calm them, it’s important to follow weight and height requirements. For greater safety and best practice, children should ride rear-facing as long as age and the car seat parameters allow it. In Maine, it’s also the law. If you need a car accident attorney, contact us to get the most out of your case.